Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands

The Loop

Do you really want to win the U.S. Amateur?

August 26, 2009

__TULSA, OKLA.--__Come Sunday afternoon, the last man standing from the 312-player field at the 109th U.S. Amateur will receive the customary spoils that go to the winner of the USGA's oldest championship. The Havemeyer Trophy. Invitations to the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. A lifelong association with some of the game's greatest golfers (Bobby Jones,Arnold Palmer,Jack Nicklaus,Tiger Woods, etc.). The thing the champion won't get, however, is the one item he could use the most.

An owner's manual.

Indeed, claiming the most prestigious title in all of amateur golf hasn't necessarily been a trusting predictor of future golfing success. In many ways winning the U.S. Amateur is golf's equivalent of winning the Heisman Trophy. It's an honor and an albatross at the same time.

Consider that with 2004 U.S. Amateur champ Ryan Moore's playoff win at the Wyndham Championship last weekend, the number of PGA Tour victories from the 12 winners of the Amateur since Tiger's three-peat in the mid-1990s sits at only three.

While all but 2005 winner Edoardo Molinari and 2006 winner Richie Ramsey have earned a PGA Tour card at some point during their career, just five currently have fully exempt status.

Why the post-victory difficulties? The reasons vary, most stemming from the simple burden of expectations. USGA executive director David Fay told me a few years ago when I broached the same subject with him that he felt after being crowned U.S. Amateur champion, some players seem to change their mindset, altering their on- and off-course routines to "live up" to their new status--particularly after playing in the three majors. Meanwhile, this change causes some to forget what led to their amateur success in the first place.

Others agree the attention afforded the U.S. Amateur winner places more pressure on a player whose shift to pro golf is not a smooth road. Unlike football, basketball or baseball, where top amateurs are drafted into the pro ranks, golfers don't have a similar mechanism to make the jump.

"You win the Amateur and people are asking why you're not out there [on the PGA Tour]," 2001 winner Bubba Dickerson told me a few years back. "Well, it's not like other sports."

Whether this week's winner is a highly touted amateur or an unknown who capitalizes on the proverbial vagaries of match play, he will have plenty of doors open to him. The publicity and recognition that goes with winning the title remains unequaled compared to any other amateur event.

What he does once he walks through those doors, however, might be more of a challenge than winning in the first place.

__                                                 PGA Tour__

__Year    Winner                        Starts*  Cuts  Wins Top-10s  Status

__1997    Matt Kuchar                    201              97        1        17        PGA Tour

1998    Hank Kuehne                 113               51        0          8        None

1999    David Gossett                113               36        1          6        None

2000    Jeff Quinney                    77               34        0        10        PGA Tour

2001    Bubba Dickerson             60               29        0          3        Nationwide Tour

2002    Ricky Barnes                   37               13        0          1        PGA Tour

2003    Nick Flanagan                 39               20        0          1        Nationwide Tour

2004    Ryan Moore                  104               61         1        15        PGA Tour

2005    Edoardo Molinari               0                 0        0          0        None

2006    Richie Ramsey                  1                 0        0          0        None

2007    Colt Knost                        29              12         0          0        PGA Tour

2008    Danny Lee                       11                 6        0           1